Our society tends to label folks and put them in boxes. It also tries to place our tastes and preferences into handy compartments. So we hear about city folks and country folks, beach people and mountain men and women. Most of us have clear preferences, whether they are built into us genetically or come about from the environment in which we live and grow as humans.
Growing up in a city environment where I did – New York – I had access to the ocean quite easily. Not a clean one, but an ocean.
The mountains that were in my life back then were the Catskills, which I now know to be no more than hills after spending years in the Rockies. But those were my reference points growing up.
It wasn’t until my 40s that I got to see real mountains in the United States. (I had been blessed to be in some of Europe’s great mountain ranges at earlier ages, but didn’t appreciate it much back then. Nor did I spend much time in the unique cultures that high elevations seem to bring.) I must say that I was immediately smitten. There is something about the air, the light, the people
who live in a place they choose – rather than are born to or feel stuck in – that makes all the difference in the world. As I’ve said before and will support below, once one lives in the Rockies, it is hard to live any place else.
For me, it is hard to be bored in the mountains because of all that Mother Nature provides at little or no cost. Living in or below a mountain means that you have access to water and the animals that depend on it. One has the hunting and fishing that can be had for almost free. There’s also the hiking and mountain biking and skiing, boarding and snowshoeing that come with the territory and the climate. While I won’t claim that skiing or boarding are almost free – they can be ghastly expensive for most folks – there are ways to reduce costs and make it reachable economically. Some do it by just signing on for the work the ski valley provides, a ski pass more than enough inducement to counter the low pay. Others are hardcore and hike to avoid lift costs. But carrying skis and equipment can be exhausting and limiting.
Mountains – and that which they provide – make for natural places for folks to build homes and set up life’s camp. There are reasons that the Tiwas picked the base of Taos Mountain for their tribe to thrive – and those same conditions apply to everyone else.
The Sangre de Cristos are loaded with ponderosa pines that provide wood for vigas and siding for homes. These mountains also provide aspens that become latillas, plus year-round water flows that provide for agriculture, livestock and people. Those of us who live here know the Río Pueblo that runs through the village and provides so much o those people. They didn’t pick their place on Earth by accident.
And then there is the food supply – fish in the waters and wildlife on the land. The water that runs down into the valleys allows for farming and ranching. And Mother Nature seems to make sure there is always enough – even if just enough.
We can’t discuss our mountains and our environment without laying claim to the best mud in the world. I offer as Exhibit A the Taos Pueblo, which has been there, made of mud and straw, for more than 1,000 years. And while it does require and get maintenance, it also looks like it will last another 1,000 years. That’s another free benefit of mountain living – at least in this part of the world.
Did I mention the weather? While our mountains provide four-season climate, we have 320 days of sunshine a year. Come on, folks, we all know that life is sweeter when you wake up to sunshine each day, which is just about what we get. Mountain living is usually more rugged, less easy than city life. Just look at the cars – or trucks – we choose to buy. While there are lots of folks who can buy whatever vehicle they want, mountain livers tend to be practical. Heck, I knew a guy who came here with a Jaguar sedan with little road clearance. I knew he wasn’t long for Taos when he favored his spiffy car over our dirt roads and he drove off into the sunset in that Jag pretty quick. The rest of us drive cars that are usually well out of warranty, the time I was accustomed to getting rid of mine back in the day. Now, as a mountain guy, I don’t even look at a vehicle that isn’t four-wheel drive. Mine tend to be 8 years old or older for the most part.
My truth is that after more than 22 years of Taos, I love living in the mountains. When I think about it, my honey used to gripe about having to pick up the catalog and the phone to do most of her shopping. But the world has come to us. Stores don’t matter these days, even in cities, thanks to the computer and Amazon. It is getting a tad easier to live in the mountains thanks to technology. But for most of us, we’d be here anyway. Life is just real sweet in our mountains. What more could you want?
Harvey Blaustein is a retired attorney and local real estate broker.